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John Keats

Themes and Theme Analysis

Topics of Related Interest
Picture Gallery
Themes and Theme Analysis
Authors Literary Movement
Imagery Analysis
Helpful Resources for Students
Multimedia Links
List of Poems
Letters Written by John Keats
Influence on World Literature
Samples of Work
Works Cited

Many of John Keats poems contain the themes of the effects of time, change, life vs. death, the mortality of human life, suffering,  and beauty.

Conflicts in Keats's Poems
  • passion / enduring art
  • dream or vision / reality
  • joy / melancholy
  • the ideal / the real
  • mortal / immortal
  • life / death
  • separation / connection
  • being immersed in passion / desiring to escape passion

"To Autumn"

The theme of "To Autumn" is that time passes and that each portion is appreciated by different individuals. Also that no one has complete control over anybody, which is where it says "the light wind lives or dies".
The theme of change is also present in this poem. This is seen when there is a rhetorical question asked that says "Where are the songs of Spring?".

"Ode to a Nightingale"

- Creative Expression vs. Mortality of Human life: passing of life and tragedies of old age contrast to the immortal flowing music of the nightingale.
- Numbness; Divergence from Life/Reality:
  •         wants to use alcohol to escape at first then desires to flee with the bird (happiness/hope)
  •          happy vicariously in the bird's happiness
  •         connects with the bird, not reality
  •          wants to use the "viewless wings" of poetry to  reach the bird
- Life vs. Death:
  •         admits that the music makes him ponder over his debate about embracing  the idea of dying and submitting to death while vicariously living through the nightingale's music.
  •         Life = Disappointment and Pain.
- Appearances vs. Reality: wants to escape from the inescapable
  •         The 7th stanza's thoughts lead him to saying forlorn, his imagination must leave him.
  •         The experience makes him long for the nightingale and hope and happiness.
  •         Speaker debates his actual state

"Ode on a Grecian Urn"

  • In "Ode on a Grecian Urn" Keats talks about aesthetic beauty and perfection.
- The efffects of time:
  •         Time might change many things but it does not change art. The love for the art does not die, which is why it says "Forever piping songs forever new; More happy love! more happy, happy love!".
- Art:
  •        Art is undisturbed unlike life. It is eternal and eternity leads to loss of concern.
  •       Art, the urn, represents beauty. Beauty is truth and so art also represents truth.

"When I have Fears that I may cease to  be"

This poem is an example of and English sonnet.
- Death:
  •         As the title of the poem implies the speaker of the poem fears what might happen when he dies.
  •         The speaker wants to have an effect through his writing so that he some how lives on even though he is gone. The speaker sees death as the End and so he wants to do something before that.